Call to freeze fishing in Europe to replenish stocks

Crew members of the fishing trawler Diego David sort the catch of sardines and anchovies off the coast of Vigo (file image from December 2005) The European Union has been agonising over fishing policy for years

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A think tank has made a controversial case for freezing fishing in Europe, saying most fish stocks would return to sustainable levels within five years.

The London-based New Economics Foundation (Nef) argues in its report that the suspension would generate billions of pounds in profits by 2023.

Private investment would compensate fishermen and maintain boats.

A senior UK fishing industry representative said stocks were already improving and the idea made no sense.

Unsustainable fishing remains a major issue for the EU, where 75% of stocks are still overfished and catches are only a fraction of what they were 15-20 years ago.

The European Parliament approved measures this week against third countries which allowed the practice.

However, Maritime and Fisheries Commissioner Maria Damanaki recently reported progress in the fight to reduce overfishing.

No catch?

In its report, No Catch Investment, Nef said it had calculated the costs of restoring fish stocks and found they were far outweighed by the economic benefits in the short and long term.

Estimated restocking times

Fish and chips
  • Mackerel: matter of months
  • Icelandic cod: under five years
  • Skagerrak cod: nine years

source: Nef

It looked at 51 out of 150 commercial fish stocks, including hake, mackerel, whiting and Icelandic cod.

Most, it said, could be restored to sustainable levels within five years, with some varieties such as certain mackerel and herring needing less than a year.

However, some stocks of cod and halibut would take at least nine years to replenish, the Nef report found.

The think tank calculated that private investment of £9.16bn (11.4bn euros; $14.7bn) to manage the fishing freeze would generate profit of £4.43bn by 2023. "By 2052, the returns are £14 for every £1 invested," it said.

The investment would ensure "zero unemployment" among fishermen and would guard against depreciation of their vessels, the Nef argued.

'No sense'

In a recent report, Commissioner Damanaki found that overfishing in the North-East Atlantic, the North Sea and the Baltic Sea had been reduced from 72% in 2010 to 47% in 2012.

Start Quote

Claims that we are progressing towards sustainable fishing are the equivalent of saying that instead of driving a car over a cliff at 100mph we are driving it at 90mph”

End Quote Aniol Esteban Co-author of Nef report

The number of stocks being fished sustainably had risen from 13 to 19, she said.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4's Today programme on Friday, Barry Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations (NFFO), argued there was no need for the freeze proposed by the Nef.

"I don't think it makes sense at any level: biological, economic or political," he said.

"On the whole, we are already moving towards maximum sustainable yields so why would it make sense to spend these huge amounts of money?"

A freeze on fishing would result in a degeneration of infrastructure and a loss of markets, he said. When the herring industry in the North Sea was closed in the 1970s, he pointed out, "a whole generation lost the art of cooking and eating herring".

Aniol Esteban, who co-authored the Nef report, told the BBC News website that to say Europe was progressing towards sustainable fishing was akin to saying "that instead of driving a car over a cliff at 100mph we are driving it at 90mph".

"Overfishing is not being tackled for the majority of affected stocks, or at a fast enough pace," he added, stressing that the Nef idea would actually boost the fishing industry in the long term.

Asked by the BBC if imports of fish from outside Europe would not have to rise unsustainably as a result of the freeze, he said the alternative to increasing imports was to reduce fish consumption by a fifth until stocks were rebuilt.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    This is not really workable idea. But as other have stated.
    - A proper quota system to stop good fish being dumped
    Designated and policed no fish zones, that could be policed by ex-fisherman (they know the tricks people get upto)
    - Factory ships banned in EU waters.
    There of lots of simple ideas that can help rather than the 5 year freez

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    Same story again. Very good idea. Nothing will happen though until its too late. Fishermen cannot afford to stop working, shops do not want to lose short term profit in selling and governments will not ban fishing. End result will be no fish, no fishing industry and alot of political "I told you so".

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    Our government in the early 90's was meant to send a representative to discuss fishing policy with Europe, the man representing Scottish waters was Welsh I believe and didn't turn up.

    Our fishing has been decimated by incompetence at government level AND through foreign boats not having to meet or tight rules/requirements placed upon British boats.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    If the analysis proves to be correct and a lot of further research is conducted to confirm this, then provided that the governments are willing to fully subsidise fishermen for additional costs through having to obtain alternative food sources and lost income at an agreeable rate, then it's obvious to impose a freeze and then manage future harvests.

    But we all know that's not going to happen.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Its too late
    The EU has totally trashed our fishing resources

    On the flip side, after Independence, we can re-establish our own fishing resource system from OUTSIDE the EU, like Norway has

    The EU are incompetent idiots

    Anyone else fancy ending up like Greece... or Portugal... or Spain etc etc etc ??

    No Thanks

    After Bye byes for Westminster it's bye byes time for the EU

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    So let me get this right .... now that the Russians, Spanish and French have over fished the stocks they want to give it a rest for five years and get paid to do nothing before starting the cycle all over again?

    Good work if you can get it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    @84 "How much of that £14 is inflation over 40 years."

    Reports such as this (almost always) calculate future earnings based in todays money (e.g. corrected for inflation) and I'd guess this one is no different.

  • rate this

    Comment number 96.

    Our MPs want to spend £1000,000,000 on repair to their "Private club house in Westminster -
    Does anyone believe they are worried about some cod and chips on a Friday evening?
    NOT on their agenda.

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.


    "Fish should be left alone, years of raping the oceans has led to an unbelievable reduction of fish. . I actually find the taste of fish vile and cant believe so many people enjoy eating it."

    Typical, you don't like the taste of fish so ban it. Don't suppose you like smoking or drinking much either do you?

    Carry on, one day they will ban something you like...

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    come on BBC HYS when can we comment on what's happening in the middle east and will the violence spill over into Britain or other EU countries,

    the fish ban for a few years sounds sensible to me

  • rate this

    Comment number 93.

    I also have fish when I dine out but over the last dozen or more years I noticed many species are not available anymore and many establishments are just feed us bait fish.
    It is about time the world stop pillaging the oceans with huge ship and vast fleets and let the balance come back to noramal before it is too late.
    The world should study how the Great Lakes have evolved and take note.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    It's a great idea, but it's unlikely to come to much in practice. Even when the last cod has been caught, the fishing industry will still be rushing to blame everyone but themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    This is not something we need worry ourselves about. The human race will be killed off by natural selection. Think of bacteria in a petri dish, all the time there is food and space the bacterium thrive and their population growth is exponential as the food supply and space is reduced the population peaks and then declines at a similar rate. We are running out of space and food, our fate is sealed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    Britain should govern its own territorial waters - look at Iceland

    The British fishing industry would recover on its own if it wasn't for the floating fish factories from Spain and Russia operating in our waters.

    The EU was the worst thing that ever happened to this countries fishing industry

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    What happens in 5 years time though?

    The large fishing fleets return, rape the sea and we are back in the same position.

    I fully support the sentiment but don't think this is a long-term answer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 88.

    This is not an issue about who does the fishing, but how the fishing is done - ban factory sized trawlers hoovering all the fish out of the seas & instead go back to small trawlers fishing with lines......

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    Sadly I think this is probably the only way we will be able to manage the fish population. Never has the tragedy of the commons been so clearly played out than in the seas of Europe. Not only do we have to stop fishing for a while we also need to put in place measures to strictly police the fishing that is done once we have replenished stocks. It won't happen, politicians don't care about fish.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    1 Hour ago
    Yes, I'd go along with this. I'd also restrict fishing in UK waters to UK fishermen (and ditto for other countries).


    I agree but of course the UK has more coast line than other EU countries so that idea is as"dead in the water" as fish stocks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Fish should be left alone, years of raping the oceans has led to an unbelievable reduction of fish. Fisherman are some of the most arrogance and selfish people on the planet and if left to them would have plundered the last fish long ago. I actually find the taste of fish vile and cant believe so many people enjoy eating it. Definatley ban shark finning though, cruelest type of fishing there is.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    '"By 2052, the returns are £14 for every £1 invested,"'

    Thats disingenous,

    How much of that £14 is inflation over 40 years.


Page 9 of 14


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